The Awakening By Amanda Stevens
A Place For The Forgotten
The Woodbine Cemetery was smaller than most that Amelia had worked on as a cemetery restorer. Set back from the road in a small field away from the road, these graves are those of people that the living were looking to hide away; mistresses, illegitimate children that would warrant the occasional visit without putting the living too far out of their way in Amanda Steven's The Awakening part of her The Graveyard Queen series.
Death has always been attracted to Amelia since a young age awakened a familial power in her, something that her father had told her about. Her mother and aunt also seemed to have a bit of precognition and be able to see the dead, but only her aunt was a source that she could confide in about it.
While trusting in paranormal researchers on the cases that she uncovers, no one really understands how isolated Amelia has felt her whole life, especially after her strange lifestyle pulls her apart from her once boyfriend whom is member of an affluent family still living in the area.
Hired by a trust to restore the tiny graveyard, Amelia discovers a well crafted grave of a young child in a dark corner of the lot. The stone is cut to resemble a baby carriage and the date showing that she could be no more than two years old at the time of the death.
Reading the strange inscription, Amelia feels a darkness pass over her body like a chill that she is unable to shake off. Out of the corner of her eye, a small form darts around a corner.
Returning to a town that doesn't feel like home now that her former boyfriend is engaged to a wealthy lawyer, Amelia has no one on her side but a trusty dog named Angus and even he cant accompany her in the strange cemetery that is the site of her most recent work.
Prosper Lamb's Warning
Shush...Lest She Awaken...
The strange inscription seemed almost ominous on the grave of a young child. The stone shaped in the form of a baby carriage, something seemed to be pulling Amelia towards it.
Then the darkness crept in and her ears were filled with the voice of a young girl...Mercy, Mercy, she cried. Overwhelmed, Amelia fell, realizing she had lost the talisman she wore at her throat for protection from ghosts.
Out of the corner of her eye, a small shape was darting around the corner. Getting to her feet, she chased the shape as far back as she could until the sound of a man startled her.
Prosper Lamb was the caretaker in name alone. He claims he was paid more to keep out the teenagers from drinking and tearing up the abandoned cemetery but from the amount of rubbish stashed about the stones he was doing a terrible job.
Prosper has seen the ghost girl but he doesn't know much about her. He only says that he knows a bad omen when he sees it, and has a power of his own to sniff out recent death. He walks to a spot where the young girl had materialized and lifted the body of a bird that had their neck twisted around.
He says that the death is an omen, and when it comes raining dead birds, one might want to turn away.
Before Amelia can ask more questions, Prosper finds her necklace looped around the grave of the unnamed child.
Shaken from the incident, Amelia heads home only to have more experiences with the ghost girl at her own house and is flooded with strange dreams about her mother and aunt in their youth.
The dead crows had rained down on the lot of the cemetery, each an unnatural death with their necks turned around the way the first was found in the spot of the little girl. Prosper Lamb tried to warn Amelia of this sign, but she was set on finding the identity of the girl that now haunted her. The apparition was too old to be the child in the grave, but seemed so familiar in way that she could be a sister to the image painted on the stone. What did she want with Amelia?
Appearing not to know the history, Amelia learns that it is her ex boyfriend's fiancee that is paying for her to due the cemetery restoration.
It seems odd in a town this small that word hasn't gotten around, especially to an affluent lawyer, but Amelia decides to not let on. There is something she doesn't trust about the woman and she can't put her finger on it.
Finding out that the grandfather of her ex is also haunted by the same little girl that Amelia has been seeing now off the grounds of the cemetery, something isn't right about the situation.
Who is the girl?
Small and blond and dressed in clothing that would have been common place in the sixties or seventies, the child is at least ten, and far too many years older than the image on the grave stone but has enough of a resemblance to be a sister perhaps. With no name on the stone, common in this type of dumping ground for secret families, there is nothing to go off of and Amelia is on the hunt for more information about her and the infant's identity as she continues to be plagued by strange dreams involving her mother and aunt.
Was there some connection to an event that brought together all the parties involved?
Amelia dreams that her aunt had been sent away from her family at sometime in her teens and that her mother and aunt were arguing on occasions after about something that had taken place during that time. Amelia assumed her aunt had never married or had children because like her niece she was afraid of having a child that had the abilities that had complicated their family. Amelia viewed them as a curse and not a gift. But could Amelia be wrong about her aunt after all?
A Bittersweet Ending
As the sixth and final installment of the Graveyard Queen series, fans of Amanda Stevens have seen the characters grow and change over the novels. What Amelia has taken away from all the ghosts that she has helped while doing her restorations, she still feels that her family gift isn't always a blessing.
Through the dream sequences in The Awakening we uncover a critical piece of Amelia's family history and find out what event her dreams keep referencing between her aunt and mother.
It is a pretty good wrap up for all the characters that have reoccurred over the series of novels.
Having the last ghosts to be introduced that of children lurking around the cemetery waiting on Amelia to learn the connection and identities in time is just creepy in the long run from the whispering Mercy, Mercy to the inscription Shush..Lest She Be Awakened in the early pages of the novel offering a warning against the child spirits we are about to encounter in this novel.
What is I will miss most about these novels is how real the characters in this universe felt. Nothing ever felt forced for the sake of the plot and all the mysteries in their various locations felt genuine.
As more authors seem to be stepping away from Southern mysteries, I hope to see something like this series fill the hole that has been left gaped open for some years now after the the last Sookie Stackhouse novel.
Other Amanda Steven's novels include The Devil's Footsteps, The Dollmaker, and The Whispering Room.